We stood in Central Command's second story lobby, banged up, exhausted and in big trouble. Me, Op and Mags fidgeted and rubbed our owies like school boys in the principal's office. Uncle Trion paced before us and tried to keep his professional cool.
Trion paused and stabbed us with his optics, hot with indignation and so-called righteous anger. I grinned every time he turned his back to me. Kup's boys surrounded us and Trion had to maintain his dignity and politically-correct posture which meant he could not lose his temper in front of them.
I wondered if I could push him to that point.
"What is it with the three of you?" His Trionness hotly demanded. "And you, Ultra Magnus, the desk? What were you thinking?"
I leaned over, gazing past Op to Mags. "Yeah, what were you thinking?"
"Be quiet Rodimus," Trion growled. "I am astounded and ashamed of your puerile behavior! It's disgraceful and an embarrassment to your entire administration. I suffered three hours while Contrara, Dynamix and Exel Pi expressed their immense displeasure. And YOU!" He stopped in front of Optimus. "You're down right dangerous. You could have killed Magnus and Rodimus. What the Pitt has gotten into you?"
"IF I wanted to kill them, Trion, They wouldn't be standing here." Op nailed him with icy optics.
Magnus spoke lightly and reverently. He even lowered his head, "I'm sorry, Alpha Trion. It was my fault." I wanted to strangle Mags for respecting someone who had no Matrix-given authority.
"No," I jumped in. "It was mine. I threw the first punch."
That threw Magnus off kilter because I just stole his credibility factor. "No," he insisted, "I burst into the room, screaming and yelling."
I stood straighter, baiting Trion's annoyed attention. "Well, I was going to do that next. You just beat me to it-"
Magnus raised the bar: "I'm the one who discarded the desk."
"Pffp. I threw the next first punch."
"I lost my temper-"
"ENOUGH!" Trion ordered. "Were it up to me, I'd have all three of you in the brig! How am I supposed to explain this to the press? Do you have any idea how the public will look at this?"
Softly grunting with indifference, Optimus pushed off the wall and proceeded out the room. All optics watched him, amazed by his gall.
I shrugged. "I guess that settles it then."
Trion hit me with flaring optics. "It settles NOTHING! Optimus, get back here! I'm NOT finished!!"
Without turning around, Optimus opened the second door and stepped across the threshold. "You are now."
Unable to control us (for the moment), Trion reluctantly returned to his own little world. He proclaimed he'd have to work extra hard to buffer our tracks and keep things looking good to the world at large. Uncle Trion tried to make me feel guilty and obligated by covering our sins through public relations rhetoric.
I sat at my room balcony for thirty-six solid hours, moping. I didn't answer any calls. I didn't placate to Trion's pissy-fits. I just sat there and watched the sun come up, vanish into the night and return. I felt dead and cold with guilt. Not because Trion made me feel that way. I did not care what he thought of the situation. But never, ever, ever did I ever think I'd fight with the two people closest to me. I hurt the two people I relied on the most. What exactly happened? How did we get into such a heated-and ridiculous-fight? Over what?
I was pissed that Optimus investigated my activities, looking for clues that might lead him to convict me of betrayal. Why was I so mad over it? Obviously his intentions weren't antagonistic. And I had nothing to hide. Although I kept the meetings between me and Cyclonus secret, I still had nothing to hide. And Magnus and the whole Arcee-thing made my fuel boil. His first responsibility was to the Autobots. I will admit that the right-cross was something I've wanted to do for a long time; knock sense into him. But it was not something I should ever do. My behavior was out of line.
Obviously I owed them both a huge apology. But truthfully, I didn't know where to start. The whole 'I'm sorry' thing didn't seem enough.
I am the Autobot leader. I am responsible. Not Magnus. Not Op. As the day waxed old into early evening, I thought about all the events, causes and conditions of our current situation and somehow there's still a huge X at the other end of the equation.
No, I argued with myself, not an X, but a T. Papa T. His Trionness. Did I indeed make a mistake when I stopped Optimus from killing Alpha Trion? I should have let Optimus pull that trigger.
Woulda. Shoulda. Coulda. So what was I to do about it now? How could I possibly remove Alpha Trion from his political throne? Was there any way at all? Was there anything powerful enough to dislodge him like an unwanted rock in the tire tread? He was so adored by the public, so idolized by the Autobots, so much a part of our history, our culture, that taking him down would be like removing Santa Clause from Christmas. Everyone looked on him as their collective father-figure. If only they knew that behind the scenes, he is a back-stabbing, manipulative, traitorous, Quintesson...
Staring across the horizon, crowned by city lights, I realized I had no real allies. I have friends: Springer, Kup... Aces Six. But I have no allies with any political pull to speak of. Even Magnus, who had good rapport with other influential Autobots and certain 'circles', was not really entirely there for me.
I have been intentionally manipulated into standing alone. Were it not for Optimus, I'd have no one at all. Trion successfully cut me off from anyone who held any kind of 'pull'. And how many times has he attempted to take Optimus? Nemesis was his idea from the start!
It made him hate the old goat even moreso.
And if Trion was able to plant an idea in Op's head, and produce set-ups that caused dissension between the three of us, how much longer would it be before we had another fight?
I needed to salvage the situation. I needed to get Optimus out of the city; off the planet, out of Trion's reach and influence. But I needed to do it tonight and as covertly as possible.
Rummaging through my quarters, I found The Box. Inside lay the two cloaks given me by Ambassador Elch Th'yinion. I used them to sneak around or out of Metroplex without anyone seeing me. The cloaks utilized subspace materials to bounce light so that it reflected and refracted, pulsating molecules so close to the speed of light, even Blurr might be impressed. The cloaks weren't magic; just cool.
I tip-toed Central Command and hoped Op was in his temporary new office doing mundane late-night 'Op-type' things. But he was not.
Where the heck would he go this time of night? It being about four A.M., a perfect time to do this, naturally he'd disappear on me. Of course, I had not spoken to him since our spat. He may still be miffed at me. But it was not Op's nature to carry a grudge. Possible, but not likely.
[[Op? Optimus??]] I called over staff comline. I almost asked Metroplex. That would have been a bad move.
[[Here, Roddi.]] came his solemn, quiet but reassuring tone.
[[where are you?]]
Weird. Usually he'd tell me exactly where. I guessed he was in his quarters. I slipped another level up and east but upon arrival, found the place empty. [[Where's 'here', Op? You're not home.]] Instead of answering, he sent me a visual: a broken window overlooking the city's western half.
Where was that? What was he trying to say? I left his quarters but could not guess if I needed to go left or right. I chose right. But I did not get further than three paces before I paused. Something nagged me; the kind of psychic 'tug' like I had when Swoop was killed or when Cyclonus first approached with a truce. I took an internal assessment using an ability given to those few Autobots who heard Matrix Music. I 'listened' as a terrible sense of dread slammed into my spark with such dread it nearly smothered me. I gripped my chest, heaving a tearless whimper.
Something wordlessly terrible, some sort of catastrophic event, was coming. Everything, everyone was going to affected from the upper echelon to the lowliest of persons. I searched, asking if I could do anything to prevent the approaching disaster.
I searched again, hoping for a better answer. no. no. everything was going to irrevocably change.
My first thought was for Op. I had to move now. I had to do whatever it took to protect him. That's what 'here' meant; his office where the gaping windows, yet unrepaired, let in cool Oregon air. I raced, resisting my emotional turmoil. We couldn't leave Metroplex soon enough.
There his door stood, leaning against the left wall. In spite of the lightless environment, I recognized his silhouette at the window, gazing across the well-lit cityscape. He sat motionless, clutching Rusti's gift in his hand. How long had he sat there? Did he blame himself for the fight?
It should not have happened. I inwardly screamed at myself. How could I ever fix this? How could I patch up the broken relationships? My optics darted from one gloomy corner to another. Lost. Lost.
My heart broke; so did I. His office, now devoid of his desk, stood dark, hollow and fragmented like his soul; like my heart. I couldn't keep back the tears. I sank to my knees and crawled to him, a sinner seeking redemption no matter the price.
He turned to me emotionless as I crossed the room littered with damaged digipads, torn flooring and broken glass. "Optimus," I whispered.
His optics dimmed; pained. "I'm so sorry, Rodimus. I lost control-"
"No," I wept, "No, Optimus I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry! I don't... I think something horrible is about to happen. And Op, Op, I don't what to lose you!"
His sad expression hurt. "You'll not lose me, Roddi." he quietly promised.
"You don't understand, Op. Everything is gone! I don't know why I didn't see it before! Why was I so blind? Why was I so stupid? Everything I know is gone. You're all I have left and, and I don't want to lose you!" I sobbed fully now, unable to hide or hold back pent-up fears and frustrations.
"You are an Autobot leader, Rodimus," Op spoke so quietly I almost could not hear him. "You are not a deity. There was nothing you could have-"
"I could have disbanded the CDA!"
He shook his head. "No, Roddi, you could not. The only way something like that can be removed is by self-destruct. And it is I who should beg your forgiveness, my dear Roddi. I could not be strong enough to help you. I could not be the person you needed me to be. And I am so sorry."
The premonition strengthened and I thought I felt the world fall to pieces right under me. I felt so horribly alone, so completely helpless. "Op," I whispered, "Op, do you trust me at all? Can you forgive me enough to trust me?"
He wiped my runaway tears. "Of course I do, Roddi."
His touch became priceless. I lost my people. I lost the city-maybe even forfeited my life but I could still save him. I extracted the two cloaks. "We have to leave, Op. We have to leave right now. Do you trust me?"
He picked at the dark silver material like a child distracted by a new curiosity. "Where are we going?"
"I can't tell you. At least not here." He gazed at me, weighing the situation and my status. I wondered if there was enough Prime left in Optimus to give him the ability to read people like he used to. Op's empathic abilities were the stuff of legend. I know I have it too, but I've not been able to hone in on it-at least to his level.
He picked at the cloak a second or two more then stood and offered me his hand. His optics glanced at the city as the world approached a predawn sky. I swept up the cloaks, put mine on first then helped Op with his.
He liked the silky feel and how the cloak caught the light so that it shimmered in a menagerie of color. I watched him explore it a moment longer until thoughts of losing him hit me again. The sooner we got out of Metroplex-I choked up.
"Come on. Let's get outta here."
I guided him out of Central Command through the secret exits. My internal chronometer blared ten to six. We had to get out and away before Blaster started his shift. I didn't know if me and Op would even make it to the space port let alone to the White Out. We managed across three blocks without incident-except that one oncoming truck nearly smacked us into foil as we navigated the main downtown intersection.
We arrived at the space port just as early morning workers commenced their tedious maintenance sweep. Two Autobot femmes clucked about some TV news program and Alpha Trion's obscure discussion of the Mars project. Their conversation changed to the Nemesis musical. I vowed to never see that show again.
Five fifty-seven A.M. No doubt Blaster, cup of energon in hand, climbed the stairs to his office. Hopefully someone from maintenance might stop him and strike up a conversation. Maybe the subject was something Blaster enjoyed enough to delay going into his office. I held my hope suspended like a selenium egg in the air as Op and I boarded the ship. Springer would kill me later. I snapped off all communication systems and flipped on the radar.
I never thought I'd be racing to escape my own city. I calculated the course for our destination and Optimus locked in weapons. I said nothing but hoped we didn't' have to use them.
We shot off, zipping across Metroplex's skyline.
"Skyfire to White Out. You are NOT authorized to enter Metroplex airspace. Land or you will be shot down."
My fuel lines ran cold. My lasercore vibrated hard. Op beside me flipped the com switch. "Skyfire, this is Optimus. I am aware we are departing without authorization... we simply cannot be tracked."
"Optimus, I'm sorry. I've been ordered by the CDA to shoot you down."
"Skyfire, ..." Op saw that fear choked me; I could not speak. He continued, "Skyfire, they are not Prime. Do you understand that?"
We waited as clouds converged across the Pacific ocean horizon. Optimus laid a hand on my shoulder. "We'll make it, Roddi," he promised. His words did not quell my fear. I melted, bowed over and wept. I would never see Metroplex the same way again.
Skyfire's voice came through communications, but it wasn't directed at us: "Metroplex, this is Commander Skyfire. I've lost the White Out in a fog bank. And it's raining pretty hard. I'll have to break off. Repeat, I've lost the White Out."
Another voice came over: "Skyfire, this is Springer. Do NOT engage the White Out! Don't you DARE scratch my ship!"
There was a smile in Skyfire's voice: "I hear you, Metroplex. I am returning to base. Over."
We achieved orbit then Earth space. Optimus instinctively knew how to navigate the ship to avoid scanners and buoys. He eased the White Out into a substream then handed control to the White Out's autopilot. It's twenty-six hours to the Decepticon base. I shuddered with emotional turmoil and felt guilty over such a weak display. Slumping in my seat, I tried to find something intellectual, enlightening and encouraging to say. "I didn't want you to think me a crybaby, Op."
Yeah, that was real enlightening.
Op rechecked our course. "You are not the only person who gets premonition, Rodimus. And you are certainly not the first person to mourn the disasters of the future." His expression read half sad, half devoid of any emotion. "At least you heeded the premonition."
I remained slumped, weighing his words. "Have you ever-" I caught his meaning and sat up. "Oh, geeze! Op! Did... did you have a premonition before your death?" He would not look at me. "Oh my god, you did, didn't you? You knew you were going to die. That's why you insisted on setting base on the two moons-and why you bought Earth property for Metroplex-"
Op adjusted the helm as we approached Mars and shot around Phoebe. "It's never a specified event, Roddi. Your premonition can't tell you exactly what will happen, but you can use it to be prepared."
I choked up again as cold settled in my extremities. "Does the feeling go away?"
He studied me and I wished I could read whatever went on in his head. "I always wanted it to." he replied.
It wasn't much comfort but at least it gave me the validation that I wasn't crazy or childish or stupid or the only person who suffered like this. "You know, Op," I said after a while, "I think I had a premonition before the Hate Plague. More than once, really. But I didn't know what to do with it. Know what I mean? I just knew that something big and bad was going to come knocking on our door. And I thought about evacuating part of the city, part of Metroplex to Cybertron. But I didn't see how that would prevent or ease the situation. I should have been better prepared."
"Rodimus, do not think for a micron that the Hate Plague was your fault. Sometimes things just go horribly wrong. I am not here because you were incompetent, but because you were resourceful and solved a problem by thinking outside the box. It is not, as you say, in our job description to be everything to everyone. 'Prime' is not synonymous with deity, no matter what Alpha Trion or anyone else purports. We're just a couple of 'guys' who got stuck with the toughest job on Cybertron."
That made me smile in spite of my drooping head. Optimus subtly suggested I take a short snooze. I resisted the perfect idea. If something happened, I needed to be alert. But his logic (we were pretty much out of reach) refuted my resistance and ten minutes later I was out like the dead.
"Trapezius to Autobot ship, this is Onslaught at Space Control. Identify yourself or be shot."
I woke a bit groggy and found Optimus laid his cloak over me as I rested. Onslaught's voice repeated as I mentally shoved my scattered processor back in order. I felt better, more at ease and refreshed. Optimus stared at me expectantly as I sat up and opened a communication channel. "Onslaught, this is Autobot cruiser White Out. I'm Rodimus Prime."
"Greetings, Rodimus Prime."
"Thanks. We request landing clearance for one ship, two passengers."
"Landing clearance is granted, Rodimus Prime we are submitting coordinates now. Good to know you're visiting us again."
"Heh, well, I'm here for the tea and cakes."
Optimus tilted his head, puzzled. "Is this where you go every so often, Rodimus?"
"Twice a month. And Cyclonus comes to Earth twice a month."
"But why the secrecy?"
I waited until the shuttle landed before answering. Removing my cloak and his, I rolled them up and set them aside. "Because Op, there are CDA members who don't think Decepticons are real people. To them, the only good Decepticon is either a enslaved Decepticon or a dead one." I opened the hatch and nodded outside. "Come on. I want you to meet some friends of mine."
We exited the White Out and encountered an excitable Ravage who jumped up on hind legs, greeting us with a snort. The cyber-kitty made three tight circles as though chasing his tail. I was glad I kept a small ration of energon goodies on hand. I held the goodie aloft and Ravage stared at it like an obedient, attentive dog.
"Come get it, kitty," I egged. "I hoped kitty would do a secret trick with Op watching. To my delight, Ravage came up, set his teeth over the energon chip then let go and kissed my nose instead. I gave Ravage two for being such a good sport. I grinned at Op who remained emotionally unmoved.
"Did you teach him that, Rodimus, or did he teach you?"
Cyclonus' deep resonate voice toned from my right, "I asked him the same question three months ago. I still cannot get a straight answer."
I plastered on a shit-eating grin. "Hi, Cyclonus. You guys know each other, right? Op, Cyc. Cyc, Op, Roddi, be quiet."
Cyclonus offered to shake Op's hand and although he hesitated, Op took it. I smiled, glad that he trusted me enough to accept people I also trusted.
"Shall we retire to the Commons Room? We're about to Pass Between and it's interesting to watch the atmospheric colors, but it tends to throw the sensory inputs for a loop."
I grinned with approval. Op was going to love this. We chased Cyclonus to a sturdy collection of out-buildings. From there we hitch-hiked an elevator two stories up and into the Commons Room, a transparent enclosure that served as a look-out and a showpiece for guests.
We sank into a comfortable seating area facing a clean wall of titanium glass sheets. The wall resembled Optimus' office except they designed the transparent titanium to withstand stuff like plasma fire, plasma radiation (don't ask) and micro meteors. Behind our couch-and-chairs area, a large fountain climbed up from the floor. But rather than water tumbling from colored bowls, glass-blown cupped hands and puddled in a shallow pool, the fall consisted of mercury. It looked like liquid mirrors.
Cyclonus requested refreshments for us as we settled before the windows. "You look worn out, Rodimus," he observed.
I didn't know what to tell him. But Op kindly kicked in for me. "We've had a difficult week."
"Oh?" Cyclonus scanned from him to me.
I cast my optics upon the volatile landscape outside the window, so glad to be among people I trusted. That easy-going smile slipped over my face. "Eh. Not much more than the usual. I nabbed a bad guy off the streets, got involved in a shouting match with Magnus, organized an escape plan and had an emotional melt down in front of Op. Par for the course."
Lightning flashed and snatched our attention as someone brought in a tray bearing three goblets of energon. Another bolt struck, flashing the world in yellow and red color.
"Ooh!" a Decepticon femme reacted. "That's a nice one!"
Op stared at her, surprised. "Rodimus, I-I don't recall... " He looked confused and guilty for it.
I smacked my forehead with my palm. "I never told you, did I?" A roll of clamourous thunder resonated across the asteroid. "Op, this is uh-"
"Vomica." she bowed just slightly. It wasn't the first time I forgot her name.
"Right. Uh, see, uh," I was cut off when another strip of jagged, crinkled lightning struck the air.
Op turned from her to the windows as thunder succeeded the bright yellow-orange display. "Living here must be dangerous," he remarked.
Cyclonus looked pleased. "We like it here. There's a rich, endless source of energy. There's plenty of room to fly and there's enough for everyone to do."
I cut in: "The Decepticons collect energy from the lightning, Op. "We're in the area where they process it."
He watched the storm a moment longer. "I have never seen lightning colored like that."
"The atmosphere is super-charged with various ions from hydrogen to zinc. Each lightning strike hits a different cloud of gas and ignites the ion, creating the colors."
After another few moments Op looked at me. "I'm sorry, Roddi. You were going to tell me about Vomica."
"Yeah. The Decepticon femmes uhh..." I realized that I did not know where to begin. Fortunately, Cyclonus took up the task:
"Actually, Optimus, they came to us. Once news spread that Megatron and Shockwave were both dead, we encountered several groups of defectors seeking us. But they were soon as dissatisfied with Galvatron as they were with Megatron."
Op's usual confusion crept up and I hoped I'd not have to break the story down later. "Yet, you are now the Decepticon leader, Cyclonus. How did you get Galvatron to relinquish power?"
Cyclonus smiled, pleased with the question. "When Rodimus Prime used the Matrix to cure the Hate Plague, the Matrix cured Galvatron of his madness. He became rational enough to realize there was more at stake than his drive for power. One group of defectors were mostly of female Decepticons. They abandoned Cybertron at the beginning of Megatron's reign. They told us either Galvatron stepped down or they'd leave or seek to eliminate us.'
'Galvatron agreed to their terms with the condition that I be the one in charge. I knew we needed more than just an agreement between parties and a place to reside. So I asked Rodimus to help us reform our society from the ground up."
Op set his optics on me, very pleased. "That explains why you've had to leave once a week."
"It's been tough," I admitted. "There have been problems. A lot of them."
I did not wish to embarrass Cyclonus by going into detail but he did so at his own discretion: "We've had to eliminate some non-conforming Decepticons. Not everyone likes change. And I will not tolerate troublemakers."
I lightly smacked my head. "That reminds me. I have something I need to talk with you about, Cyclonus. That shape shifter? You were right."
"Shape shifter?" Op repeated. "Roddi? You've not mentioned anything about a shape shifter."
I grinned, knowing I looked very guilty.
Cyclonus leaned forward, arms on legs. "Because, Optimus Prime, we suspect Trion is in on it."
I answered: "On the Mars-thing, Op. We came to the same conclusion that you did: it's more than a mining operation." I turned to Cyclonus, "by the way, apparently I sighed a rule that all breeding done at the Mars facility must be done under supervision."
"What?" Cyclonus narrowed his optics. "Now they're all voyeurs?"
"Pfffp. I guess!" I half-smiled, surprised Cyclonus made such a remark. I glanced at Op whose expression was locked in consternation. "Hey," I called softly. "You're thinking too hard; it's wearing you out." I laid a hand on his arm.
He wearily shook his head. "It's difficult to keep up with everything, Roddi."
"You're right, Op. Stuff's been a bit wacky lately. And you and I haven't really slept very good, have we?" He frowned and found interest outside the windows. "Optimus," I said quietly, "we're gonna fix this. We are. I promise." I sent a concerned expression to Cyclonus. "Is there a place he can crash for a while?"
Like the amazing professional he was, Cyclonus stood as another femme entered the room. She cordially greeted us, but smiled at Optimus.
"This is Akhal," Cyclonus said more to Op than me. "She'd be happy to prepare quarters for you if you wish to go."
Op stood and I with him. I read subtle uncertainty in his optics. "I know Akhal," I said with a touch of enthusiasm. "She's the local history buff around here. She could show you around the complex here if you'd like, Op. I don't want you to feel you have to do everything I say."
"I'm just worried for you, Rodimus. That's all."
I embraced him tightly, pressing my head close to his. "I am so lucky to have you!" I said quietly. I wanted to add that I felt better now that we were on Trpezius. But he needed rest. I let go and nodded toward Akhal. "Go on. She's a nice girl and knows everything here." Op stepped away and to my delight, he took her outstretched hand. He was going to be okay and it made me feel better.
As they left, I settled back in the chair and prepared to tell Cyclonus everything.